NCI Worms Head at Sea Swansea

See the photos here Adrian Tivey's photos

Swansea's unique mixture of boat show, market, carnival and trade show was held on Saturday and Sunday 26th and 27th July. Someone, somewhere had managed to to get things right because the sun shone brightly on both days and the Maritime Quarter positively buzzed with activity.

Building, no doubt on previous successes, this year even more was packed into the two days. Local people and visitors alike were treated to a heady mixture of sea shanties, face painting, chandlery, boats afloat and boats on land, rescue dogs showing off their skills at saving people in the water and visits to the tug and the old Helwick Lightship moored in the Marina.

Waterside cafes, to say nothing of local pubs, were full and the atmosphere was one of almost tangible relaxation, enjoyment and bonhomie.

In the midst of all this the NCI Worms Head stand, strategically positioned alongside the RNLI, was as professionally set out and attractive as any of the stands. A steady stream of visitors learned a little more about the history, development and work of NCI and David Evans and his small team of helpers “Did us proud”.

Without doubt, the highlight of the two days, as far as NCI Worms Head is concerned, was the opportunity to travel on the Mumbles All Weather Lifeboat. Each day the boat made the trip from Mumbles to the Marina and back and each day up to twelve NCI volunteers were invited to make the journey. Altogether more than 30 people took advantage of the offer.

The launch at Mumbles is an unforgettable experience. The boat sits on the ramp in the boathouse, tethered by a winch cable, with all the aerials and superstructure folded down. With crew and visitors on board, the winch man slowly and gently allows the boat to slide down the ramp until it is clear of the boathouse doors. The clearance between the boat and the lintel over the doors is quite literally no more than three or four inches!

At this point the folded down superstructure is raised to its operational position and the aerials are erected. The Coxswain makes his final check and suddenly the adrenalin rushes as the realisation dawns that we are sitting, high above the water, in a boat, with its engines already running, on a ramp which angles steeply downwards. At a signal from the Coxswain, the pin securing the shackle holding the boat to the mooring winch is removed and the boat slides, at ever increasing speed, into the water. The moment that it hits the water the throttles are opened and she is quickly up to cruising speed of some seventeen or eighteen knots.

On both days the sea was calm and the trips were enjoyable. Crossing Swansea Bay in  sunshine, on a calm sea, did beg the question “What must it be like in the early hours of the morning when it is dark and stormy with a big sea running, knowing you are going to the aid of a large vessel in trouble”.

The entry, through the Tawe Lock, into the Marina and the departure later in the day drew large crowds along the water's edge.

Returning the boat to the boat house, while not so dramatic as the launch is, nevertheless a demonstration of consummate skill on the part of the Coxswain. Turning the boat stern on to the ramp, and using lines from the stern and bow through a single mooring buoy the Coxswain keeps the stern of the boat just clear of the ramp while allowing the tide to push the boat sideways into position for the winch cable to be connected to the stern bollards of the boat.

Everyone of the NCI team who travelled on the boat will have his or her individual memories of the day. I have, however no doubt that the overriding memory will be one of being in the company of crew men who are carrying on a tradition of lifeboat service that has been associated with Mumbles for more than 170 years. In that time the crews have received thirty three awards for gallantry, but have also seen the loss of eighteen lives in three separate tragedies. It was, without doubt, a proud moment to be standing alongside men who willingly put their lives at risk in the service of saving others from the dangers of the sea.